School security took center stage during a study session of the Kyrene School Board on Jan. 22, along with the announcement of a new safety committee to assess the best security practices for the district.
The committee membership includes technology experts, communications and security staff, and Beth Brizel, the current Kyrene board president. The results of committee discussions will be brought back to the board.
Members listened as several district staff representatives reviewed current procedures and additional security measures that were implemented on Jan. 7. These include having all visitors check in at the front office and, while on campus, relinquish their photo ID in exchange for a visitor’s badge.
Gina Taylor, assistant district superintendent, explained the procedures now in use were developed by the staff-comprised crisis team. She displayed a large binder that includes a checklist to follow in the event of an incident.
“Each school can tailor the procedures to their particular needs,” said Taylor.
“We want to reassure parents that, as a district, we do have a real systematic way to respond to crises and we partner extensively with the communications team. Schools do plan for a lock-down drill each year and practice them.”
The chair of new safety committee is Mark Share, who also is the director of technology services for the Kyrene District. He recently met with Tempe police and fire personnel.
“The Tempe police chief complimented our preparedness, and they have offered us their support and advice on making any protocol changes that are needed,” said Share.
“Currently all district employees wear ID badges and use access cards instead of keys to enter buildings. This measure alone resulted in a cost-savings to the district because no re-keying is necessary. Instead, if an access card is lost, it can be deactivated.”
Change usually provokes reaction, and the new security measures did not meet with some parents’ approval. Parents voiced their concerns about the changes by contacting board members via telephone and email, said Brizel, the board president.
“Some complaints were made because parents did not want to turn in their photo IDs, and viewed entering and exiting only through the school’s main doors as an inconvenience.”
After the study session, the consensus among board members is to err on the side of caution for now and to wait for an update from the new safety committee.
By Diana Whittle